Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?

Adult woman suffering from hearing loss after having chemotherapy treatments discussing symptoms with her doctor.

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as trivial. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to keep in mind. And, obviously, you want a really full and happy life!

This means it’s essential to speak with your care team about reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could arise after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

Cancer treatment has advanced substantially in the past couple of decades. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment method has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is often the main treatment option for a wide range of cancers. But chemotherapy can bring on some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Those side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of hearing
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Vomiting

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to vary from person to person. The particular combination of chemicals also has a substantial impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.

So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly certain how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially skilled at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your most pressing concern. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Hearing loss has been known to cause social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, obtaining the correct treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you’re feeling socially isolated.
  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-induced hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.

Minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.

So what should you do?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re fighting cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.

Here are several things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:

  • It will be easier to get fast treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You might require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

It should be mentioned, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you make a plan that will help you get in front of the symptoms.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.